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Professional Tips For Proper Digital Photography  
User currently offlineN314AS From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 5484 times:

There are many digital photographers out there, some even calling themselves professional aviation photographers without knowing the true fundamentals of aviation photography. The following are a few tips you can use to better your photography if you really want to be known worldwide as a top dog in the hobby. For those who just shoot casually, then you may want to disregard these tips.

1. Canon? Nikon? Which one is best? This is very silly and stupid. These are all very good and provide great pro systems. You don't even need the top of the line camera to shoot good. A middle-level camera with 4-5 fps is good enough (and at least 7-8 MPx resolution) and a good lens system. I know someone who still uses a Leica digital rangefinder. He shoots calendars! Contax, Sony, Pentax, etc etc, they are all good. All it takes is for the one "Driving" it to shoot properly. I know this is slide area but one of the best air to air photographers (and aviation photographer in general) is Bob Shane of Phoenix Arizona. He taught me a great deal on how to shoot properly when I was wild. He still uses very old Nikon FM cameras and with those, he is one of the best award-winning Kodachrome shooters ever. FMs were low end manual cameras but very well built. He did not need a F-4 or F-5. Same with digital, it will all depend on the shooter.

OK...here we go. The winner is..........

2. Live Props... The biggest mistake among digital photographers is being afraid to lose a flyby of a prop plane by shooting at 1/2000 shutter speed. This is the most ridiculous thing you can see...and very laughable. Imagine a plane in the air that looks like the engines are turned off yet the exhaust is still there! Well, many still do this. Slide photographers were experts at shooting slow speed because due to the low exposure of the film, high speed caused vignetting, or dark tunnel effect corners. To shoot action props, you don't even need a VR lens. My technique is to pre-focus on the area that you are going to shoot the prop and then set the speed to anywhere between 1/100-1/250 speed. Carefully hold the lens and shoot in the area that you focused in. By keeping the hand steady, you should have a good shot with blur in the props. Remember, since the shutter is slow, your aperture is more closed so focusing should be from edge to edge. For air to air shooters, especially those who shoot aerobatic planes side by side, you can go lower speeds to completely round the props. These shots look dramatic but they are actually very easy to do because aerobatic planes hold position with rudder action thus it is like they are stopped right next to you. That is why there are so many of these types of photos being taken today. They are not as hard as they look but seem dramatic. Same with those who take shots from the rear of planes like C-130s or B-25s. Don't be afraid to shoot slow. It takes practice. You can shoot jets a bit faster on digital...up to 1/800 or 1/1000 since vignetting is not that much of a problem with digital unless you are using a very cheap thin telephoto lens. Avoid those.

3. Sunny days. Shoot only on sunny days with sun at low angles (Early morning or late afternoon). On ramp and taxi shots, you want ALL wheels lit up in sunlight. A more front angle is good. 3/4 front is a nice angle, especially for props. Avoid a more rear sun angle. It gets you dark noses and the shadow of the elevator streaks along the fuselage. On hot or windy days, avoid telephoto shots as heat haze can be prominent and this makes the photo look really bad.

4. On ramp shots - a. Get rid of the cones. b. Get rid of any clutter, APUs, Stairs, and close all doors. c. Look at the ground. If there is excessive oil or something like manhole covers in the foreground, move to another angle. d. Remove the towbar. e. Watch for glare. f. Make sure all titles and artwork are visible plus the registration too. g. Look at the background. Make sure no pieces of other planes are sticking out like the tail of a plane sticking out of the subject's nose. This looks ugly. When you do ramp shooting, chances are you are directing the shot of the plane. Use it to your fullest advantage.

5. When shooting from a fence, make sure YOUR shadow is not visible. This looks really bad. Also AVOID GLARE. That is really bad when half your windows are erased with glare....really really bad.

6. Avoid normal approach shots unless you are at the same height of the plane (in most cases). Why? Take for example Frontier or Caribbean Express. These are billboard titles. Shooting normal approach shots from slightly underneath hide these titles. That is not good for upper level photography. These you need to get from a wing level angle, terrace angle, or air to air. Others may get away with this because titles are up front. Also, avoid cutting the tail designs with the wing. Landing shots like Miami's runway 12, are very even so these are good complete side-on shots which can get the entire fuselage designs.

7. Don't do 50mm side-on shots all the time. I know this was the standard of the hobby but here is why. First, it looks boring when too many look the same. Exploring different angles is nice. Second. Take for example, the JetBlue with the soccer player or Air Canada's older 767 with track star Donovan Daley. If you take these at 50mm side on, you block the main feature of the plane which is the artwork.....terrible photography....really terrible. These types need to be taken from a lift, terrace, or air to air to be parallel to the fuselage and the entire artwork can be seen.

8. Light poles. Some photos show shades of light poles or parts of buildings in fuselages. Avoid these shades showing in the fuselage at all costs. It looks bad.

9. Engine covers - Canopy covers - etc. Get rid of these if possible when doing a ramp shot. They look ugly and it is an ugly picture too.

10. If you do air to air photography, plan the shot ahead of time with your pilots. Make sure everything is in place....time of day, speed of both planes (so one is not faster than the other).....rubber lens hood for internal glare (or dark clothing)......good sun......clean window or open door.....do not fly behind subject plane as vortexes can be deadly....yes, it has happened.

11. At airshows, avoid taking shots of static planes when they are roped off, covered, and with bathrooms, vendor stands visible in the background. The best thing is to get to the show on off-days or get the planes as they come in and leave after the show so that they are clean.

12. Fisheye lenses - use these primarily for cockpit shots and airport terminal / control tower overviews. Avoid using them for the planes themselves. Banana and glider shaped airliners (looooooong wings) are not very popular with the heavy duty enthusiast. Avoid using this lens too much unless it is for artsy purposes only.

13. Super telephoto - be careful with anything over 400mm. The hotter it is, the more heat haze you will get. If the subject is too far, forget it. Normal range of enthusiasts is from about 28 mm to 300 mm.

14. Use fill flash for many shots even if during the day, especially on dark ramps where the bottom is not lit up as opposed to a lighter ramp or snow.

15. If you are close to someone who owns airplanes or close to someone that can let you in a ramp, don't be afraid to experiment....Use remote lighting......light up the interior of the plane at night......place remote lighting in the rear to accent the background......use a red or green light in the cockpit to give that "infrared" look......do not shoot night shots for too long of an exposure as any rear background airport lights will mush or smudge too much which will hurt your shot.

16. ALWAYS USE RAW......RAW.....RAW or the HIGHEST possible JPG (2-3 megs)! It takes more space but you want the best resolution for your shot. If you are going to do this professionally, someone will eventually ask you for a poster of the plane. If you buy a high end camera only to shoot smaller jpg images, you are done. You just lost business with that customer. SHOOT RAW. You do not need to shoot a burst of 30 photos at a time like for slide film. All you need in digital is 3-4 good shots of each subject and each action. SHOOT RAW! You can always convert the raw image to a smaller one for internet use but keep your original file IN RAW more. USE THE MAXIMUM OF YOUR CAMERA (and of course shoot full frame too....DO NOT CROP). Large cropping means losing the potential resolution.

17. Always use the lowest possible ISO setting for better quality. I use 100 for daytime and maybe a little higher
200-400 max for night. Anything larger will start to give you grain, especially shooting low resolution (Which I hope you are not).

18. Do not brag about you being the best professional out there and you or your outfits are the "only" ones allowed to shoot in certain places or that you are the ONLY official photographers ever of certain shows and no one else is....etc. This looks bad for others (and especially for you). Many top dogs have contacts up the rears and they can get into practically ANY PLACE and ANYWHERE shall they wish.....so no one is an "The Only Official Photographer" at any point. Also, keep quiet on your photo shoots if they are for special setups for your customers. Be unique on your planning and don't let people steal your idea and get ahead of you.

19. When you go spotting with your friends....share the uploads later. Don't take everything for yourself to make all the fame and fortune. You are there shooting the same thing. Share! One time, I had a photographer who called two of us to spot. Only 15 minutes in, a new livery came in. Suddenly, this photographer had "Stomach aches" and needed to go home. He did not have aches.....he just wanted to upload the hot new plane to EVERY site and magazine to be first. That is being selfish. That is being an ass****! He got all the money but he also lost two friends in the process!!!!!!
Have etiquette! Have fun but share too!!! No one is any better than the other. You share! That is the way to make
good friends in this hobby.

20. Have fun.....find different angles......look for puddles of water to reflect a shot.....use a mirror.....do closeups of pilots.......do rotations near the runway.........etc. You can open a great deal of enjoyment and still shoot the professional level by following these previous steps to better your talents and show "aaaahhhhh" to people!

I've made past mistakes....yes.......but now my eyes avoid these. Now I follow these rules. I don't shoot unless
it is right.....and it saves camera cycles too. Take these steps into consideration and you will become a very good and demanded photographer in the future.

18 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinehotplane From UK - England, joined Jul 2006, 1083 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 5464 times:
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Brilliant guide - I go along totally with all the points you mention. These are the steps everybody should follow!


?
User currently offlinestackhouse007 From United States of America, joined Nov 2007, 420 posts, RR: 1
Reply 2, posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 5447 times:
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Great guide there. I am fairly new and this helps out a lot! Thanks for all the tips.


Nikon D60: 18-55mm - 55-200mm / Canon 50D: 100-400mm
User currently offlineAKE0404AR From United States of America, joined May 2000, 2535 posts, RR: 46
Reply 3, posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 5395 times:

Quoting N314AS (Thread starter):
17. Always use the lowest possible ISO setting for better quality. I use 100 for daytime and maybe a little higher
200-400 max for night. Anything larger will start to give you grain, especially shooting low resolution (Which I hope you are not).

Grain is only bad with a.net and all the other so called aviation sites on the internet.

As far as publication goes, you can still sell those images.........

Vasco


User currently offlineeksath From United States of America, joined Aug 2004, 1309 posts, RR: 25
Reply 4, posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 5377 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
ARTICLE EDITOR

Quoting N314AS (Thread starter):
There are many digital photographers out there, some even calling themselves professional aviation photographers without knowing the true fundamentals of aviation photography. The following are a few tips you can use to better your photography if you really want to be known worldwide as a top dog in the hobby.


This is a great summary and quite informative to the interested. It documents the peer review process for those who don't shoot in a pack. But then again, I am sure that there are people who would like to "do their own thing".

I think as Vasco mentioned, the standard for creativity and style is different for other sources compared to this website. One has a lot more artistic control in the rest of them than here.

Thanks for posting this exhaustive write up. I can't think of anything to add to the list.

Suresh

p.s. I am guilty of doing some of these things at one time or the other.

[Edited 2010-03-27 14:30:02]


World Wide Aerospace Photography
User currently offlineJRadier From Netherlands, joined Sep 2004, 4702 posts, RR: 50
Reply 5, posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 5361 times:

It should read: the guide to a proper A.net shot. Seen plenty of terrific shots that don't follow these lines!


For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and ther
User currently offlineNIKV69 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 5358 times:

Quoting JRadier (Reply 6):
It should read: the guide to a proper A.net shot. Seen plenty of terrific shots that don't follow these lines!

Some tips weren't so practical I mean get rid of the cones? So if your on the ramp just start pulling those cones up? Or did he mean clone them out?   


User currently offlineN314AS From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 5343 times:

NIKV69......you can clone them out but get used to doing it with out them if possible. Chances are these are regular shots of planes at the terminal. They also have clutter around them and in the background. When you set up a plane, YOU are in control. It is YOUR baby with the time they give you. That is what most pros do. The only thing that may be left are wheel chocks to hold the plane.

 


User currently offlineN314AS From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 5340 times:

Suresh -

You master the long telephoto and you now know how to shoot good.....no problems with you that is why you are on my side and we shoot at many airshows! We all had our little backfires. I've lost money in the past on bad slides. Today, that will not be the case! I learned from my mistakes! We all do!

Keep up the good work!

JF


User currently offlineN314AS From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 5334 times:

JRadier -

This is basically a standard for good photography from professionals. There are many artsy shots that are great and not necessarily follow this but they are still super....for example..Steve Morris' vortex shots. Those are great. They are usually not in sun but are 5 stars plus! Remember though, my thread says to enjoy and be artistic too....as long as it is eye catching and away from the normal spotter type shot! Uniqueness is part of this if done right!

My guide is basically a standard to better many people of mistakes they do. Training wheels if I may add. You do the rest.

JF


User currently offlinehotplane From UK - England, joined Jul 2006, 1083 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 5283 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Quoting N314AS (Thread starter):
3. Sunny days. Shoot only on sunny days with sun at low angles (Early morning or late afternoon). On ramp and taxi shots, you want ALL wheels lit up in sunlight. A more front angle is good. 3/4 front is a nice angle, especially for props. Avoid a more rear sun angle. It gets you dark noses and the shadow of the elevator streaks along the fuselage. On hot or windy days, avoid telephoto shots as heat haze can be prominent and this makes the photo look really bad.

I'm in 'hibination' now due to the high sun/dark aircraft undersides/heat haze. I won't bother shooting anything during the day no matter how unusual the subject. If I do go to an airport it will only be early morning or during the evening. One thing I enjoy about early morning shoots is heading back home with quality shots in the bag as everyone else is just arriving!



?
User currently offlineSilver1SWA From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 4820 posts, RR: 26
Reply 11, posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 5260 times:
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Quoting AKE0404AR (Reply 4):
Grain is only bad with a.net and all the other so called aviation sites on the internet.

I agree. I don't mind a little grain or even noise, especially if a higher ISO helps guarantee a sharp shot. I think the strong push for low ISO only can lead to missed opportunities.

Quoting N314AS (Thread starter):
3. Sunny days. Shoot only on sunny days with sun at low angles (Early morning or late afternoon).

I wouldn't go as far as saying shoot ONLY on sunny days. But yeah, light is very important. Air quality and visibilty is important too. Not all sunny days are equally as good for photography.



ALL views, opinions expressed are mine ONLY and are NOT representative of those shared by Southwest Airlines Co.
User currently offlineChukcha From Australia, joined Mar 2006, 1980 posts, RR: 7
Reply 12, posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 5249 times:
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I would totally agree with about 60% of these tips, being iffy on maybe 30%, and I would be inclined to disagree with a couple. But I'm not a pro, so I guess it is OK.

User currently offlineviv From Ireland, joined May 2005, 3142 posts, RR: 29
Reply 13, posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 21 hours ago) and read 5129 times:

Quoting Chukcha (Reply 13):
I would totally agree with about 60% of these tips, being iffy on maybe 30%, and I would be inclined to disagree with a couple. But I'm not a pro, so I guess it is OK.

My reaction is about the same. I am a guy who often shoots with a film rangefinder camera...

Shooting against the sun can be effective:

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Vivion Mulcahy




Nikon D700, Nikkor 80-400, Fuji X Pro 1, Fujinon 35 f/1.4, Fujinon 18 f/2
User currently offlinedendrobatid From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2004, 1668 posts, RR: 62
Reply 14, posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 20 hours ago) and read 5098 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
HEAD SCREENER

I question the higher ISO for night shots and that is a common mistake.
Once the camera is going on a tripod, there is no need at all for higher ISO and dark areas are subject to the most grain (noise)
Use the lowest ISO ESPECIALLY for night shots.
If the camera is on a tripod and needs an 8 sec exposure at 100 ISO is anything to be gained by only having a 4 sec one at 200 ISO or 2 secs at 400 ISO ?
Generally, no, the camera still needs to be on a tripod (though movement of the subject is a consideration too)

Point 2....excellent!
I think most photographers here use aperture priority but as I shoot a lot of prop aircraft I always use shutter priority, the lowest speed I can get away with. A full prop disc on a moving aircraft is not easy, but can be done with luck. The more practice I do, the luckier I seem to get. A lot were thrown away to get this one, a mundane aircraft but now used by the Squadron in question
Mick Bajcar

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Mick Bajcar



User currently offlineJakTrax From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 4936 posts, RR: 7
Reply 15, posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 11 hours ago) and read 4941 times:

I think some of the points you mention are from the 'old-skool' days of slide photography, where certain restrictions often dictated the general characteristics of the image. Centring a subject for instance is a very grey area; an area which is actually down to personal preference rather than having a 'right' and 'wrong' side. I saw an image here the other day which in my opinion had the aircraft way to high in the frame - learning the 'A.net way' isn't essentially learning how to take professional images.

Many of the 'dos and don'ts' listed are down to personal preference to be honest. If I want a sunset shot of that Caribbean Airlines 737 it doesn't matter one bit whether the titles are fully visible or not. Many of your suggestions are for the 'side-on-in-sun' format.

Having said this there are some very valuable points in there and I'm inclined to agree with much - if not all - of it.

One last thing I'd add is that, if you are after the 'side-on-in-sun' type of shot, avoid mid-day in summer months where the aircraft is above you (final approach for example) as the light will cause contrast issues. When the sun is very high in the sky it illuminates the top half of the fuselage but not the bottom. This will lead to conflicting contrasts which cameras have a hard time judging correctly - and the situation is worsened because you're basically photographing a lot of shadow on the belly of the aircraft if it's at a higher elevation than you.

Only other thing I'd add is that one should always have a go at full manual at some point; which is where DSLRs really excel. Avoid full auto or P mode like the plague!

Karl


User currently offlineN314AS From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 16, posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 5 hours ago) and read 4801 times:

Folks......remember that this guide is for the basics. There are lots of shots that you can do that are away from this...the artistic side of it......like sunset shots.....some nice fuselage reflections etc.......I am not saying you cannot be creative.....just do the best you can. My guide follows us as slide shooters in which most of it is applied to digital. You don't have to be a professional making money off these photos but if you want to do it right, these steps are good notes to keep. Remember, I mentioned Steve Morris and his vortex long-tele shots. These are usually not in sun but they are interesting, as long as they are eye catching. That is the artsy side of this.

JakTrax....good reply. The Caribbean thing for example is fine the way you state because it is an artsy shot but if you are going to do it normally, then it would require the full titles whether 3/4 front, air to air, or side-on but yes, let's say if you were shooting a silhouette, vortex shot, etc, then titles really do not matter...but as long as the shot is nicely done. I fully understand what you mean.

Again, remember this is a guide followed my many veterans and helps the new photographer if they want to be successful in a full time job at this. It is up to you to do the rest. It helps eliminate many of the common mistakes that new digital photographers do. It is only to make you better.

If anyone has questions or comments, feel free to drop me a line. I can supply examples if you need them (before and after).

JF


User currently offlineflight From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 334 posts, RR: 1
Reply 17, posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 3 hours ago) and read 4761 times:

Joe, good guide, hope to see you in Miami soon, well not the summer I suppose but the winter,
Well take care and keep on shooting.


User currently offlinecpd From Australia, joined Jun 2008, 4879 posts, RR: 38
Reply 18, posted (4 years 6 months 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 4704 times:

Agree with most or all of those points in the first message. I don't upload photos to any of the major sites anymore. I lost interest.

Although I always use lowest ISO - I'm not scared to use ISO2000 or higher if I need that (and I'm talking about photos in darkness of a fast moving plane, not a stationary one).

Part of the reason I've stopped uploading/taking photos is that there it is impossible to get different images at my nearby airport to other people who also photograph planes there. I do not like to take the similar photos as everyone else.

The only thing I can do is:

1. Use very low shutter speed (which gets boring after a while)
2. Hire a helicopter or access off-limits areas through a useful contact (and you can't do that all the time).


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